Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Billy Edd Wheeler—whose many masterful compositions include “Coward of the County” (Kenny Rogers), “Jackson” (Johnny Cash and June Carter), “It’s Midnight” (Elvis Presley), and “Gimme Back My Blues” (Jerry Reed)—discusses his career and performs during a rare Nashville appearance, as part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Poets and Prophets” songwriter series.
West Virginia-born and Yale-educated, Wheeler scored a major hit of his own when he recorded the novelty number “Ode to the Little Brown Shack out Back” (#3, 1964–65). Here, Wheeler discusses his hits and how his upbringing in West Virginia inspired other songs he wrote, including: “Coal Tattoo” (recorded by Judy Collins and Kathy Mattea), “Coming of the Roads” (recorded by Judy Collins), and “High Flyin’ Bird” (recorded by Judy Henske and Jefferson Airplane).
Wheeler also performs “The Reverend Mister Black,” “Hotdog Heart,” and “Ode to the Little Brown Shack out Back,” with Dana McVicker providing backup vocals.
The program focuses on Wheeler’s songwriting talent and achievements. However, he has been equally prolific in other creative arenas. Dubbed “a renaissance man for the hills” by the “Chicago Tribune,” Wheeler is the author of two novels and two collections of poems, several plays, and several books of Appalachian humor. When not writing and performing, he depicts country life in paintings, drawings, and sculpture.
As a recording artist since the early 1960s, Wheeler has released a number of critically acclaimed LPs for a number of record companies, including Monitor, United Artists, Kapp, Capitol, RCA, and Flying Fish. Wheeler also was an executive with United Artists in Nashville.
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